One night, when I was about 15 years old, I thought I was going to die. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, I just went to bed and was overcome with an overwhelming feeling that I was going to die. I tossed and turned, afraid that it was going to happen at any second.
It was an unexplainable, perhaps irrational, kind of fear. But the fear kept me up praying that it not happen that night, too scared to shout out to anyone and tell them what I was thinking, or ask them to stay with me during my last moments, I can amusingly admit.
As if death only visits after hours, I gave in to sleep when light broke. There’s no fear – or less fear – when you are surrounded by light.
Everything that has life comes with an expiry date. Your death clock is ticking. The very moment Allah SWT commanded an angel to blow your soul into your body – just a developing foetus housed inside your mother’s womb, the countdown to your body’s last breath began.
Death’s inevitability is probably the only subject of life’s reality that humanity agrees on. As Muslims we are aware of what happens after death, despite some denying that there is a definite state of Barzakh, an interval between death and resurrection.
In a Hadith relayed upon the authority of al-Bara’ ibn `Aazib, the Sahaabah RA went with Nabi Muhammad SAW to a burial of a man from the Ansaar until they arrived at the grave and the man had still not been placed inside it. The Messenger of Allah SAW sat down and the Sahaabah sat around him.
“You would have thought that birds were upon our heads from our silence and in the hand of the Messenger of Allah SAW was a stick which he was poking the ground with. Then he started looking at the sky and looking at the earth and looking up down three times. Then he said to us, ‘Ask Allah for refuge from the torment of the grave’, he repeated this command two or three times. Then he said O Allah I seek refuge in you from the torment of the grave (three times).”
Rasulullah SAW warned us to prepare for death and seek refuge in Allah SWT from the torment of the grave. Yet it has become something we take lightly. Nowadays we chat about death casually, even flippantly. Like many other of life’s aspects, we speak about it knowledgeably but our actions demonstrate incompetency.
Just like the Ihram places everyone on equal terms, so does the grave. From lofty mansions, luxury apartments or mud huts, our eventual place of residence is the same – a rectangular hole, six feet in the ground. In that confined space, either a garden from heaven or a hole from hell, we’ll lay draped in a sheet of white inexpensive cloth, the only thing to separate us from a blanket of sand.
You could say we’re living by the YOLO (You Only Live Once) slogan. But then again you only die once also. Many think death is a bridge they’ll cross when they get there. The bridge comes after, and it’s as thin as a strand of hair, as sharp as a sword and its length spans over Hell fire.
“Every soul shall taste death,” Allah SWT repeats this aayah in different chapters in the Quraan. The word taste is used to express that death is just the beginning of something. It isn’t the complete experience or the end of life. It is merely the movement from one reality to another, the start to a new beginning. The dead are buried among us, living in their own realm. Driving pass cemeteries still doesn’t make it easy to envisage.
Knowing the scary reality of the Hereafter we spend the present lost in life’s luxuries. We openly justify wrongs and delude ourselves into a false sense of intellect and understanding. We scold anyone who speaks or writes truth only because we choose to idle away in disobedience.
And sadly disobedience is taken for granted. Obedience is brushed away as being conservative, disobedience regarded as open minded. And the new rule propagated through shaytaan’s social media is that life’s pleasures can and must be enjoyed.
Instead of asking ourselves if we are ready to taste death were it to visit us in the next five minutes or whether death in disobedience bodes well for us, we scold anyone who exposes our collective flaws. We cloak ourselves in labels of intellect and knowledge yet our actions don’t separate us from the disbelievers, only our names do.
In the hereafter every soul shall experience its own reality and come to intimately understand its true condition and where it stands in relation to the nature, purpose, and greater realities of existence. There are two resurrections that take place after death, the first is in the Barzakh and the second is at the final judgment. A person’s life is likened to a book – with each thought, word, and action, they are writing on the pages of their soul, the state of their nafs is impacted by what they occupy themselves with in this world.
Some might incorrectly perceive me to be writing this self righteously. What Taqwa does an article like this inspire, others will question. Accusations of this being an “uneducated opinion” or a misunderstood acceptance of the truth as though it is based on fabrication will be thrown around. It’s written in the hope that it serves as a reminder – to myself first. There are many verses in the noble Quraan and Ahadith that speak of life after death. Rasulullah’s SAW advice to us, mentioned above, and his own urgent seeking of refuge in Allah SWT, is that not enough evidence?
Reminding ourselves of death is a painful necessity. Especially since there is much we condone as acceptable in our daily lives. Life is a beautiful scene. But it is temporary. If we get too engrossed in the comforts it offers, we lose focus of the final destination because we can’t see it or feel it or comprehend it. Islam does not teach us to live life according to the immoral system of YOLO but to worship Allah SWT and devote our thoughts, actions, words and life to seeking His Pleasure, and only so we may be rewarded with the ultimate prize.
We can never go back and make a new beginning or change things, but we can struggle to make a better ending. We can do our best to add up our good deeds. We can strive for piety and the pleasure of Allah SWT because to Allah do we belong and to Him is our return.
Death is scary. It is inescapable. It is real. But there is no fear when you are shrouded in light.